Reds Hope Guardado Can Help Bullpen

For the second time in two days, a National League Central contender tried to shore up its pitching by adding a struggling veteran. After the Cardinals acquired Jeff Weaver for their rotation on Wednesday, the Reds countered Thursday by picking up Eddie Guardado from the Mariners for Double-A righthander Travis Chick. Seattle also included roughly $2.5 million to defray part of Guardado’s remaining salary.

A 35-year-old lefthander who has made two all-star teams, Guardado lost his closer’s role with the Mariners this year but will finish games for the Reds. Cincinnati had been using Todd Coffey, but he hasn’t been nearly as effective as he had been as a setup man. Guardado’s fastball, slider and splitter are average pitches at best, and he relies mostly on heart. That hasn’t worked for him much in 2006, as he has gone 1-3, 5.48 in 28 games while converting just five of eight save opportunities. He has a 22-11 K-BB ratio in 23 innings, but opponents are batting .309 with eight homers against him. Guardado is making $6.25 million this year in the final season of a three-year, $14.25 million contract, after which he’ll become a free agent. He has a career record of 41-55, 4.31 with 175 saves in 766 major league games.

Chick is no stranger to being traded after being included in deals for Ismael Valdez in 2004 and Joe Randa in 2005. A 14th-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2002, Chick has a low-90s fastball and a hard slider that’s a solid-average pitch when it’s on. His changeup and control need work, however, and he has leveled off since reaching Double-A in 2005. This season, he has gone 4-5, 4.61 in 16 starts at Chattanooga. He has a 77-36 K-BB ratio, .249 opponent average and 12 homers allowed in 84 innings.

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